Brow Beat

Saturday Night Live Brings Kristen Wiig, Alec Baldwin, and a Whole Lot of Green Screen to a Homemade Season Finale

Kristen Wiig smiling broadly, holding her arms outstretched, in a still from SNL in which her image has been outlined in bright colors.
Maximum Wiig! NBC

Saturday Night Live brought a very strange season to a close this week with the third and final edition of Saturday Night Live at Home, the cast’s attempt to recreate a live comedy show with pre-taped sketches, mostly about video conferencing. The first SNL at Home was full of sketches where the premise explained the production quality: Twitch streams, YouTube tutorials, and so on. The second outing was a return to some of the forms that SNL has always excelled at: commercial parodies, celebrity impressions, and letting Kenan Thompson do whatever the hell he wants. This week, the show really started exploring the comedic possibilities of the quarantine production model, with a few sketches that turned the constraints into something new, interesting, and extremely weird. There was still plenty of Zoom humor, though, starting with the cold open, a virtual commencement speech from Alec Baldwin’s Donald Trump.

I think we’ve all heard enough Zoom jokes for one lifetime, but it was surprisingly reassuring to see Baldwin playing Trump again, and the “Desiderada”/”Deteriorata” section, in which Trump offers graduates inspiring advice like “Reach for the stars, because if you’re a star they let you do it,” was solid. From there, things got weird, but mostly in good ways. Host Kristen Wiig’s monologue wasn’t much, but the introduction to the monologue was a work of deranged genius, the pandemic’s greatest example so far of editors turning indifferently lit footage of a comedian in front of a blank white wall into something hilarious.

Wiig also shone in a sketch about hair vlogs that approached at-home cinematography from the opposite angle: Instead of trying to turn webcam footage into something good through editing tricks, Wiig figured out how to create some the most alarming images anyone has ever shown on broadcast television, mostly by just leaning over her camera. Behold!

Meanwhile, other cast members took themes and techniques they’ve been exploring during quarantine to the furthest extremes possible. Aidy Bryant has been making ridiculous green screen jokes since the first SNL at Home’s “Visualizations With Aidy,” a guided meditation in which Bryant inserted herself into inappropriate stock footage. This week, her green screen work assumed its final form with “Eleanor’s House,” a disturbing trip into the uncanny valley featuring a truly extraordinary CGI Kyle Mooney:

Mooney, too, has taken his SNL at Home assignment—sketches in which Kyle Mooney plays every character—about as far as it can go. “Beer Money” also seems like it might be a terminal point for Mooney and Beck Bennett’s long-term project of decontextualizing the theatrical conventions of late 1980s television. There is literally no more context left to remove from this demented cavalcade of stings, sound effects, and poorly-executed split screens:

But the real hero of SNL at Home just might be Pete Davidson, who has spent the entire quarantine recording comedy rap songs and making music videos for them, several of which his mom directed. In just three episodes, he’s aired four videos: “Drake Song,” “Andre 2000,” “Stuck in the House,” and this week, “Danny Trejo Song.”

Stipulate that none of Davidson’s quarantine songs or videos are particularly funny or good; it’s still inspiring to see someone use the quarantine to really lean into a new project. But you don’t have to find a new schtick if your old one was perfect. Cecily Strong’s Jeanine Pirro impression is one of the great comic inventions of the 21st century, and this week’s installment was pre-quarantine funny.

Finally, the whole cast contributed to this lovely piece of green screen surrealism, but Pete Davidson, Keenan Thompson, and Ego Nwodim were the standouts:

That’s all the Saturday Night Live we’re getting until next fall, when the show will triumphantly return to Studio 8H, OR triumphantly continue to be produced in cast members’ homes, OR triumphantly convert to a post-coronavirus, post-broadcast, post-electricity format in which travelling bards sing songs about the exploits of the Saturday Night Live cast members. It’s a great time to invest in lute futures.